Wyatt B. Durrette said today that he had won a substantial victory over Rep. Stan Parris in what the Northern Virginia congressman had said would be the first major test of which Republican can win the party's nomination for governor this spring.
Durrette said his forces captured at least 31 of 43 Albemarle County delegate votes selected in Charlottesville last night in a lightly attended contest. Parris had predicted Feb. 1 he would win the Charlottesville delegates "like . . . gangbusters."
Aides to Durrette, a Richmond lawyer who is considered the front-runner despite trailing the congressman from Fairfax County in fund-raising, contended the test vote raises questions about Parris' appeal throughout the state.
"I don't think Stan has shown he can get support outside of his Northern Virginia base," said Michael Conlin, Durrette's campaign manager.
The Parris campaign also said today that it had captured 23, or 54 percent, of the delegate votes, but it was unable to produce a list of supporters it had repeatedly promised. The campaign said the list had been mailed to Richmond by campaign workers in Charlottesville instead of sent by bus.
Durrette meanwhile released his own list of 99 persons from the Charlottesville area, who he said were certified delegates supporting him. (Although the area has been allocated 43 votes, the Republican Party allows an individual to cast as little as one-third of a vote, thus increasing the number of people who can participate in the party's May 31 nominating convention in Norfolk.)
Albemarle is the largest of four Virginia jurisdictions to hold delegate selection meetings thus far and its meeting is one of about 130 that will be held over the next several months before the GOP convention.
If the results hold up in Albemarle, they could undercut Parris' expensive bid to overtake the Durrette campaign in a direct mail and telephone bank effort that attacks Durrette's "electability." Durrette has twice before failed to win two statewide campaigns.
Despite the missing list, the Parris campaign said today it would stick by its estimate and make the list available Thurday. John F. Dawson Jr., a Parris supporter in Albemarle County who was supposed to have the list today, said in an interview that he knew of only about 30 certified delegates who might support Parris -- about half the number Parris' aides said were on his list.
"In Norfolk on June 1, the numbers will add up," insisted Jeff Gregson, Parris' campaign manager. Gregson declined to comment on Parris' "gangbusters" statement, but said the congressman's campaign had almost no support two months ago and that any delegate win was better than initially expected.
Regardless of the competing lists and claims, the crowd of about 150 persons appeared Tuesday night to be largely in support of Durrette, who addressed the meeting. Parris did not attend, but was represented by William Stanhagen of Manassas, the party's national committeeman.
Conlin, who has sparred with the Parris campaign over fund-raising issues and the authenticity of a mysterious letter that surfaced last week, insisted those issues were less important that Durrette's ability to win delegates. "This is the real test," Conlin said.
Durrette, a former Fairfax County legislator, has not won an election since 1975. He narrowly lost a bid for the GOP nomination for attorney general in 1977 and then lost that same office in the 1981 election.
In the last few weeks, Durrette has won smaller delegate selection contests in Colonial Heights, and Warren and Powhatan counties. By the Durrette campaign account he leads Parris 73 to 8 with 9 uncommitted.
The Parris campaign said it has also won 52.2 of 63 votes in Alexandria where an official canvass of delegates will be released March 5. The Durrette campaign has said it will not count the results until they are official.